Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Group W Bench Revisited

by Pa Rock
Budding Criminal

The call came yesterday, totally unexpected and more than a little unnerving.

One of our secretaries called back and told me that a marine from Camp Foster was on the phone.  I wasn't expecting to hear from anyone in the Corps because in two years of working at the clinic that was the one branch of service whose members I had never treated.   But a very nice (and young, of course) Lance Corporal came on the line and informed me that I would have to appear in traffic court as a result of hitting that gate post at Lester Naval Hospital this past May.

"But, but,but..." I stammered, "I'm leaving the island in eleven days!"

"In that case, sir," the young man calmly replied, "you will need to come to tomorrow morning's session."

Okay, it wasn't going to be a big deal.  He explained that there would be no fines.  The judge would hear what I had to say and either assign "points" against my license - or take my license.  He assured me that mine was not a major crime, and to come early because they had four heavy-duty cases scheduled later in the morning.

I arrived very early, ate breakfast in my car, and read for awhile.  Finally the other criminals (mostly marines, dependent wives, and a smattering of airmen) began getting out of their cars and lining up on the sidewalk, and I got out and joined them in the crime line.    As we stood there in the morning sun, a few began talking as a way of dealing with the tension.  The young marine standing next to me asked what I was there for.  I wanted to say, "Littering...and creating a nuisance," but I suspected that he had never been to Alice's Restaurant.  So I told him the story of the Lester Hospital Gate Masacree - with full orchestration and five-part harmony - and hummed a few bars until the door was opened and we were marched inside.

I had been about fifth in line, but when we were led into a room to sign the roster, I managed to get my name on the top line.  (I'm not sure how that happened.  I don't remember knocking any of the marines down in order to get to the front of the line.)

My case was called first.  The young man who walked me to the door of the courtroom (a makeshift room in the chapel center) told me to step up in front of the judge, stand at attention, and say, "Good morning, sir."  I did as instructed - although I thought a "Zup, Dog?" might have lightened the mood a little.  The judge was an older civilian, though probably ten years younger than me.  He was reading a report, and I was relieved to not see any eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.

The first thing the judge said when he looked up at me was, "You've obviously been driving quite awhile."  "Yes, sir."  I said - not feeling the need to tell him that I got my first license shortly after LBJ and Ladybird moved into the White House.

The judge asked me to tell him about the accident, which I did.  Then he followed up by asking if I had damaged the gate (not a scratch), or my car (tore off the rear-view mirror, a hubcap, and creased the entire passenger side).  Finally he banged the gavel, announced that I had driven carelessly, and assigned four points against my SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) license, and sent me on my way.  If I get two more points in the next four months I will lose the license - of course, I will be turning it in next week anyway.

So I have now been adjudged guilty of a crime - and if the government ever starts drafting old men, I've got my story ready!

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